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Joined up Thinking: Aggregating archaeological datasets at an international scale

Julian D. Richards

Cite this as: Richards, J.D. 2023 Joined up Thinking: Aggregating archaeological datasets at an international scale, Internet Archaeology 64.


The archaeological research community was an early adopter of digital tools for data acquisition, organisation, analysis, and presentation of research results of individual projects. However, the provision of e-infrastructure and services for data sharing, discovery, access, and reuse has lagged behind. The ARIADNE Research Infrastructure has sought to address this situation. Developed with European funding, ARIADNE has created an e-infrastructure that enables data providers to register and provide access to their digital resources through the ARIADNE data portal, facilitating discovery, access, and research. ARIADNE has aggregated resources from over 45 data providers, spanning over 40 countries and 4 continents. The portal now provides online access to over 3.9 million research resources. It is based upon Linked Open Data technologies and is underpinned by a flexible and extensible architecture, enabling multiple combinations and presentations of the same underpinning data. We have been keen not to 'make a great heap' of all the data and, learning from previous data aggregation projects, we have defined a subset of the CIDOC CRM to be used as a strict ontology and paid close attention to data standards and controlled vocabularies to achieve a high degree of interoperability. This article discusses some of the challenges of large-scale data integration and describes the approaches adopted to ensure that the ARIADNE Knowledge Base is an effective tool for archaeological heritage management and research at a national and international level.

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  • Keywords: data aggregation, interoperability, research infrastructures, big data
  • Accepted: 26 July 2023. Published: 31 October 2023
  • Funding: This article was funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 ARIADNEplus grant agreement n. 823914.
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Corresponding author: Julian RichardsORCID logo
University of York

Full text

Figure 1: Hansen's octopi symbolising the networking of European resources (reproduced from Hansen 1992)

Figure 2: The landing page of the ARENA search portal, developed during the ARENA project 2002-2004, provided a distributed cross-search of catalogues of sites and monuments data for Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Poland. Romania and the United Kingdom

Figure 3: The ARENA temporal search provided a visualisation of the different start and end dates for cultural period terms applied by each of the partners and users could select all resources for which the same period term was used, but searches using absolute date ranges were not possible

Figure 4: The ARENA2 portal: developed as a technical demonstrator for DARIAH

Figure 5: The Transatlantic Archaeology Gateway (2009-11), showing a cross-search across the archives of the ADS and tDAR

Figure 6: Screen shot of the original ARIADNE portal. The landing page p rovided a free text search box and the opportunity to browse the catalogue by the three key parameters of 'Where', 'When' and 'What'

Figure 7: The ARIADNE approach for addressing the complexity of developing advanced integrated services for archaeological research communities (courtesy of ARIADNE project)

Figure 8: The Vocabulary Matching Tool, illustrating the ability to define Exact, Close, or Broad matches between the Getty AAT and target concepts in native vocabularies deployed by partners (courtesy of Ceri Binding, ARIADNE project)

Figure 9: PeriodO - period definitions for France provided by Inrap

Figure 10: The aggregation workflow

(courtesy of Alessia Bardi, ARIADNE project)

Figure 11: Visual graph showing part of the ARIADNE triple store in GraphDB

Figure 12: The Publisher filter in the ARIADNE portal. This provides a rapid identification of the number of records from each provider, and in many cases also acts as a country search.

Figure 13: The Resource Type Filter in the ARIADNE portal allows users to extract a subset of interoperable data

Figure 14: The ARIADNEplus portal landing page, showing the auto-complete and multilingual features provided by the application of the Getty AAT

Figure 15: A search on 'weapons' without narrower terms yields only 753 resources, whereas when narrower terms are included 24,834 resources are retrieved

Figure 16: The map browsing function uses a heat map to visualise the density of records

Figure 17: Landing page for an individual data resource, illustrating the ability to display the geospatial extent of the resource as a polygon

Figure 18: The temporal browse facility in the portal

Figure 19: The landing page for a coin held by the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation showing the value of including images among the metadata harvested by the portal

Figure 20: The location of the find spot of a gold ingot displayed to a 1km resolution, such that the actual find spot may be anywhere within the red bounding box

Figure 21: The Unpath'd Waters Portal uses the ARIADNE Knowledge Base and Portal interface to provide a hard-wired UK maritime heritage search

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